Want to know how to manage your daily stress with a simple technique?
Yet many of you are still unaware of the benefits of proper breathing.
We will explain step-by-step 5 breathing techniques that we teach to our patients to help them reduce their stress.
By the end of this article you will be able to deal with any situation, no matter how stressful.
Ready? Take a deep breath and let’s get started. Take a deep breath and let’s get started on why breathing properly will help you reduce stress.
Why breathing helps with managing your stress?
Your schedule is overflowing and your to-do list keeps piling up. You have a presentation to make in a meeting next week but you are not ready for it at all. You are being asked to do everything, all the time.
In a word, you’re stressed.
When you breathe with intention and awareness, you bring a sense of balance and well-being to your mind and to your body.
Research shows that slow breathing increases blood flow, balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and increases vagal tone (Russo et al, 2017; Kromenacker, 2018).
Put more simply, it means that the positive effects of slow breathing on our circulatory and nervous systems help us recover from stress more quickly.
Breathing practices in general have been linked to reduced anxiety, depression, and overall stress levels (Jerath et al., 2015), which means that breathing also helps with emotional balance!
Finally, and on a related note, mindful breathing helps balance oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. Too little oxygen causes shortness of breath, while too much carbon dioxide causes lethargy. Breathing consciously and efficiently helps to rebalance the O2 / CO2 in our lungs and blood (Courtney, 2009).
Conscious breathing has also been shown to help with panic attacks, asthma attacks, and other causes of shortness of breath, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Dechman & Wilson, 2004).
Now that we’ve seen why breathing properly can greatly help you manage stress, let’s take a look at these famous breathing exercises.
You may have guessed it, we are talking about breathing with your diaphragm. This technique is very effective if you are in a phase of extreme stress.
- Make yourself comfortable and find a position that is conducive to breathing. You can be sitting, lying down or even standing. The important thing is for you to feel comfortable.
- Are you there yet? Now place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Breathe slowly through your nose.
- First, simply feel the breath moving through your body. Do you feel your hands moving over your diaphragm and abdomen? Good.
- As you breathe in, expand your abdomen by breathing in deeply and slowly. Your diaphragm will drop to allow your lungs to fill.
- Exhale slowly through your nose.Your diaphragm will rise and allow your lungs to empty and your abdomen will deepen. Your abdomen will deepen.
- Repeat this breathing cycle for 5 to 10 minutes. Relax your facial muscles and gradually slow down your breathing.
At the end of this session you should be as relaxed as after a good spa.
This technique is very useful to quickly recover breathing comfort when experiencing shortness of breath.
Pursed-lip breathing can also help you to release existing muscular tension.
- Take a comfortable position, conducive to breathing.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, then slowly exhale through your mouth while pursing your lips.
- Your exhale should sound like air slowly coming out of a bicycle tire or the sound of a snake.
- Repeat this breathing cycle 8 to 10 times and then return to normal breathing in and out through your nose.
This technique is used by some people to fight insomnia but not only. Some evidence suggests that this type of breathing can reduce anxiety, help with sleep and control anger reactions.
Behind this strange name is actually the number of seconds of each phase.
4 is the number of seconds you breathe in through your nose.
7 is the number of seconds you must hold your breath.
8 is the number of seconds you have to exhale through your mouth.
- Take a comfortable position to practice deep breathing and close your eyes.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 seconds. Your belly expands with air.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds while standing upright.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Pursing your lips will help you not to exhale all your air at once.
- Repeating this cycle three to four times should be enough to greatly reduce your stress. You can repeat this as many times as you like.
- Return to normal breathing and relax.
Alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana (Pranayama)
This technique calms anxiety and stress and comes straight from yoga. The objective here is to breathe alternately between your left and right nostrils. Only one breath per nostril at a time.
Alternate breathing requires a little more practice than the techniques seen previously. But don’t worry, you can do it too!
- Sit comfortably, preferably cross-legged or in a chair, with your back straight.
- Place the top of your left wrist on your left knee and touch the tip of your thumb with your index finger.
- Fold the index and middle fingers of your right hand into the palm of your hand. This is the hand that will block the breathing of each of your nostrils.
- You will use the ring finger and the little finger of your right hand to control the air flow of your left nostril and the thumb for your right nostril.
- Cover the right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through the left nostril.
- Now open the right nostril, cover the left nostril with your ring finger and pinky and exhale slowly and steadily through the right nostril. Empty your lungs completely.
- Rest in this position and gradually fill your lungs by breathing in through the right nostril.
- Then open the left nostril, close the right nostril and exhale through to the left.
- You can also add a step of holding your breath by pinching both nostrils. A cycle begins when you breathe in through the left nostril and ends when you breathe out through the same nostril.
- Repeat 5 to 10 cycles, then uncover both nostrils and go on with natural nasal breathing.
Bee Breathing (Bhramari Pranayama)
This last technique comes to us again from yoga. As the name suggests, we will simulate the humming of the bee to calm the mind.
As surprising as it may sound, this breathing is also known to lower blood pressure in some people and improve concentration.
- Sit comfortably in a relaxed position conducive to breathing and keep your back straight.
- Breathe normally with your mouth closed and your jaw slightly open.
- Raise your elbows to shoulder height and cover your ears by pressing your thumbs against your tragi.
- Place your index fingers above each eyebrow. Close your eyelids and cover them with your middle fingers.
- Place your ring fingers on either side of your nostrils. You are now isolated from your senses.
- Breathe slowly and deeply to fill your lungs with fresh air.
- Partially close your nostrils with your ring fingers and exhale through your nose, making a humming sound. Try to hold the hum as long as possible.
- Repeat these steps 5 to 10 times.
These breathing techniques are powerful, but...
they shouldn’t be done for long, and not all at once.
To summarize, we have identified five techniques to reduce and control your stress:
- diaphragmatic breathing;
- pursed-lip breathing;
- 4-7-8 breathing;
- alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana (Pranayama);
- bee breathing or Brahmari (Pranayama).
You can choose to do these techniques in any order. Pranayama techniques from yoga are the most powerful ones, so listen to your body if your energy changes too quickly during the exercises.
The most important thing is to be aware of your breathing. A regular practice will allow you to feel your emotions better and therefore better control your stress.
As always, we recommend that you consult a physician if you are not seeing improvement or if you have any health concerns.
If you want to go further in managing your stress and anxiety, we offer a complete physical and mental fitness program called M.A.Y.A.
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